Even, today, books are treasured possessions, treated as almost 'hallowed' objects. Bookcases have come to serve as both functional and decorative furniture pieces, although their place in British homes has come as a relatively new addition as printing processes and mass book production has become more prevalent.
In their earliest incarnations, bookcases were literally cases or chests filled with manuscripts, owned by the literate wealthy or clergy and carried around. As printing technologies developed and manuscripts evolved into bound books, there was a practical requirement for book storage in the home. The earliest bookcases as we know them were often fitted with cupboard doors, or built into rooms as permanent fixtures. As books were often an indicator of both prosperity and knowledge, they became an important design feature, with elegant libraries considered the epitome of sophistication and wealth.
It was not until books were available en masse that bookcases were seen in homes outside of the prosperous aristocratic and upper middle classes; even more so alongside the advent of the 'throwaway' (but highly collectable)paperback book in the 1930s.
Choosing Your Bookcase
The bookcase that you choose will of course depend on your interior design scheme and requirements. For instance, you have a large volume of books, and your bookshelves will be purely functional, you'll need to opt for strong bookshelves that can bear a lot of weight. Cheaper materials can easily wear out or crack, and may not prove particularly cost-efficient in the long run.
A bookcase crafted from good quality and sustainably sourced hardwood is your best option if you're looking for a bookcase that will last a lifetime and beyond. Oak in particular is considered the most refined hardwood for creating beautiful bookcases that serve as a decorative feature as well as a functional piece.
However, flat-packed mass produced bookcases do have a number of benefits; they can be easily assembled and disassembled, and are perfect for people that move accommodation frequently (such as students), as they can be easily moved, are lightweight and easily stored when not in use.
In office environments and document storage facilities, hard-wearing tambour bookcases provide a secure and practical book or journal storage solution. Metal bookcases are particularly robust, and where space is at an absolute premium, a rotating circular bookcase will prove the perfect storage solution.
If you're keen to opt for a contemporary or minimalist look, then glass shelving bookcases, acrylic or glass-fronted bookcase units might be a consideration. The sleek design of these bookcases lends itself perfectly to a modern interior design scheme, as the bookcases not only serve their function as a storage area, but can also double as a desirable display area for gadgets, art pieces, awards and other objects.